I’m not superstitious. yet I can’t shake off the feeling of providence as my flight to Keflavík was shortened by half an hour, as I arrived at Iceland on Monday. A wee hour buss-trip and I was firmly planted in Reykjavík, the place where things are happening! Hotels everywhere, new hotels being built, tourism flourishing showing no sign of decline. Geysirs, lava, craft beer, northern lights, exciting excursions, penis museum, truly Iceland is the latest thing and has been for several years.
Back to my providence remark. There’s an undercurrent to this cosmopolitan surface. Icelandic black metal is a term, it’s a thing, and Oration is a platform for channeling this divine expression of extreme metal art. I’ve arrived at just the right moment now that the second edition is about to kick off. One look at the exhilarating line-up, which mixes high class international acts (Mgla, Aosoth, The Ruins Of Beverast) with the impressive Icelandic bands (Sinmara, Misþyrming, Zhrine etc) and you’ll probably want to go yourself. I went to the source to get some elaboration on this event. Studio extraordinaire and organizer of Oration MMXVII, Irishman Stephen Lockhart, was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Hi Stephen! For those who don’t know what Oration is, could you please shed some light about the origins and vision behind the event?
The the original intention was to host a one off gig showcasing bands that Studio Emissary had collaborated with. It quickly grew beyond that however. The festival can be seen more so now as platform for the thriving Icelandic Black metal scene to spread it’s wings. There is no other festival where you can see these bands perform in such an undiluted and focused manner. On top of that, with some of the best international Black metal bands in the world headlining – it’s like a colossal cherry on top. Personally speaking, it’s quite simply an honour to host this lineup. I feel there is something truly special happening here, something that will be remembered.
You debuted the event in 2016. How did the whole affair go down? From what I hear and read, it was raging success!
From my point of view at least, it was a complete success. This seems to be the impression all around as well. I was quite surprised by this, and how quickly the festival gained momentum considering we’ve only hosted one edition. The idea that Oration might become an event that people want to see repeated never really occurred to me – I would have been happy once nothing went wrong!
Of course, with the gift of hindsight, it’s always possible to make changes and try different approaches, but that’s really just logistics. It’s part of the process.
Now, Oration isn’t just a three-day concert event, there’s also Oration Records. How are the two connected?
The two are directly connected – Oration is small record label that was launched (or relaunched) at the same time as Oration MMXVI. The label was intended to act as somewhat a physical manifestation of what Studio Emissary was doing. Not surprisingly, given the name, the festival is perceived as being more linked to the label than the studio. In reality, it’s very much so the other way around. Last year, a good 2/3 of the bands participating had collaborated with Studio Emissary on some level. It’s similar this year (11 of 18 bands).
There’s been ongoing murmurs about the Icelandic black metal sound for the past few years. In your own words, what does this caption encompass?
It depends on what you’re referring to – if you are referring to the sound from a production standpoint or in terms of composition. Studio Emissary was responsible for the production of the quite a few of the most influential Icelandic records, so of course there are similarities in that sense.
But in terms of composition, I feel there is actually a lot more variation than the ‘scene’ is given credit for. Due to the fact that a large proportion of these bands consist of the same members, there’s a temptation to tar each project with the same brush. If one takes the time to give these projects the attention they deserve, it becomes clear there’s a lot more than meets the eye.
You also work at Studio Emissary. Care to tell about its origins and which bands that have been recently recorded and produced there?
I do indeed. This is my primary occupation. Or at least it’s supposed to be! The last couple of months have been largely consumed with organising the festival. The most obvious bands you probably already know – Svartidauði, Sinmara, Abominor. Then in the last year or so, Almyrkvi and Zhrine have been making some waves. There’s always something brewing, let’s just say that.
How come an Irishman went on to settle down in Iceland? What lead to the decision of moving and opening up a studio?
I came to Iceland in 2007 as part of a work exchange program for university. I ended up moving here full-time in 2008. I didn’t start the studio right away however. That just sort of developed over time by recording my own projects and eventually being asked to work with other bands. It was only in 2010 or so that I started to consider that I might do well to follow my passion and seriously consider working in music as a profession. Seven years later, here we are!
Specializing in black metal music, may I ask what draws one towards this type of music?
To me, it’s not anything that can be explained with words, at least not compressed into a paragraph! So many attempts have been made to intellectualise Black metal as an expression, yet rarely do they come close to explaining such a multi-faceted phenomenon. For my part, the attraction is entirely personal – it represents the freedom to channel an art-form that can become greater than it’s creator. It doesn’t require validation and it never should. It offers a very essential energy that can only be described as spiritual. That last part is key!
Any last words?
Thanks for the time and opportunity!
Only two days until the black arts take over! Coverage will follow at this space!
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